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10 Ways to Balance Your Work-From-Home Life

When you work from home, it's hard to differentiate your personal from your professional life. Here are tips to help out.

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This is an excerpt from Working Naked: A guide to the bare essentials of home office life by Lisa Kanarek.

When you work from home, you're constantly forced to switch mentally from work mode to family mode within minutes. You need to strike a balance between your professional and personal lives, because they happen in the same place. Here are 10 ways to find that balance:

  1. Minimize distractions. Some people say, "I could never work out of my home because I would have too many distractions." As a rule, minimize trips to the kitchen to get something to eat (except at mealtimes), don't turn on the television, and don't let yourself get sidetracked by personal activities such as cleaning the house or doing laundry.
  2. Know when to stop working. A good friend once told me that she could never have a home office because she wouldn't be able to stop working. When you work from home, you don't have far to go when you get the urge to get one more project finished. If you're single, it probably doesn't matter how long you work; but if you have a family, you'll soon hear complaints from all sides. When you stop working, really stop. Close the door to your office or close up your desk and concentrate on your family.
  3. Don't eat lunch at your desk. When you take a lunch break, leave your office and eat in another part of your home. Changing your scenery and physically removing yourself from your work will help to clear your mind.
  4. Schedule regular "dates" with your spouse and children. A freelance artist I know blocks out every Wednesday afternoon to spend with her husband. They play golf or tennis or go out to lunch. They both know that every Wednesday afternoon is their time to play, no matter what else is going on during the rest of the week.
  5. Take at least one weekday off per month to play. At the beginning of each month, schedule a day when you're going to stay out of your office and do something else. This would be an ideal day to catch up on reading, see a movie you've wanted to see, or just enjoy the outdoors. Let your voice mail take your calls. You'll find that taking a day off will prepare you for a month of productive work.
  6. Make a list of fun things you've always wanted to do, and then start doing them. Maybe you've always wanted to visit the local art museum. Look online for activities and upcoming attractions. If you've lived in the same city for years, consider taking a guided tour of the town. You'll learn more about your city in a few hours than you have in several years. The point is to keep your horizons open and not let your work consume your life.
  7. Use your office for business-related activities only. Instead of going to your office to read your favorite magazine or new mystery, go somewhere else in your home. This will keep you in the mind-set that your office is for business and the rest of your home is for your personal life.
  8. Don't use other parts of your home for business on a regular basis. If you have a favorite chair where you sit and read or watch television, don't use it for work. After a while, you won't feel that it's a place for you to relax and get away.
  9. Include your spouse in your business. Even though you may work in unrelated fields, it's always good to get an outside point of view. Your spouse may be able to offer a solution to a problem you've had on your mind for days. Also, if your spouse understands your work and what it involves, he or she will be less likely to resent all of the hours you put into it.
  10. If you and your spouse work together, avoid talking about business after hours. I know many successful business partners who are also married. They attribute their ability to work and live together to taking the focus off of their work after hours.

Brother home office expert Lisa Kanarek advises corporations and individuals on all aspects of working from home and writes the blog Working Naked. She is the author of several books, including Working Naked: A guide to the bare essentials of home office life.

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